Petersburg Pilot -

Borough transition is moving forward


Since the formation of the Petersburg Borough, officials have been working to put together a plan to make a smooth transition. The transition will still take the better part of the year to complete.

“The first big part of the process is the status of the appeal from Juneau,” Petersburg Borough Manager Steve Giesbrecht said. “We are looking at April or May before this will be finalized.”

The City and Borough of Juneau is suing the Local Boundary Commission and the Petersburg Borough due to disagreements on the boundary line drawn for the newly formed Petersburg Borough.

“Their argument is that they are saying they didn't have enough opportunity to determine where the line should be drawn,” Giesbrecht said. “While they have nothing against the formation of the Petersburg Borough, they don't like where the boundary line is. They want to move the line all the way down to Cape Fanshaw. The LBC has never lost a case though, so we are feeling pretty strong about the outcome.”

The next portion of the transition process is a letter of incorporation from the State of Alaska.

“It will more than likely be March or April before we receive this letter,” Giesbrecht stated. “It really doesn't affect anything other than identifying our incorporation to federal and state agencies and will not stop the organization process.”

The letter is produced by the State, recorded, made part of history and then it is sent out to everyone. The state and federal agencies that do business with the Borough will need this letter for things like the Census Bureau and land allocation. The State will not start the process until they have that letter in their hand and it could hold up many of the processes of transition.

The Borough will also receive $600,000 that will be split over three years. The Petersburg Borough will receive $300,000 the first year, $200,000 the second year and $100,000 the third year.

“We have been told that this is in the governor’s 2013 supplemental budget,” Giesbrecht stated. “We are expecting for it to be approved and have the money by June.”

According to Giesbrecht, the money is important for a couple of reasons, one of them being a new Comprehensive Plan.

“Comprehensive Plans for cities is an outline of the infrastructure, roads, electric, water and garbage just to name a few,” Giesbrecht explained. “This lets us know if our supply is sufficient to handle any growth over a certain amount of time.”

The plan will outline the availability of land for house building and industrial development as well.

Part of this also is harbor development.

“We will look at our harbor infrastructure and determine what we need, talk to the people that use it, talk to local businesses that support the fishing fleet and find out what they do and do not need,” Giesbrecht stated. “This will also include looking at the docks at Papke's, the Kupreanof Dock and the dock at Banana Point. The harbor development will help determine if these are things that should be owned by the Borough and can be a part of our land choices.”

According to Giesbrecht, this money can also be used to do an inundation study of the area due to earthquake and tsunami possibilities.

“The earthquakes aren't really the issue here,” he stated. “It will be a resulting tsunami that we need to worry about here.”

The standard response now is to make sure you are one mile inland and over 100 feet in elevation.

“If we are able to get an inundation study done we can pinpoint where the affected areas will be and possibly not evacuate the entire town,” Giesbrecht stated. “This isn't something that we have wanted to spend money on, but it will serve a purpose and help us identify the tsunami danger areas.”

According to Giesbrecht, the flood maps for the area are out of date and now a study of the entire borough can be done.

“If the flood zones get changed and your house is moved out of a flood zone, your insurance could go down,” Giesbrecht said. “These are some of the things that we would like to use the transition money for and we can get started pretty quickly.”

Seats on the Assembly need to be filled along with the hospital board and planning and zoning commission.

“The school board is full now because they can appoint under State statute and the rules are different,” Giesbrecht stated. “Those seats are still subject to the financial disclosure though, and that will have to be filed within 30 days of appointment.”

The Petersburg Borough has 45 days to fill two vacant seats on the Assembly, three seats on the hospital board and seven vacant positions on the planning and zoning commission.

“We are doing everything we can to fill these places,” Giesbrecht stated. “We are encouraging people to come in and take a seat and serve.”

The next order of business for the Borough transition will be the hiring of a new attorney.

“A request for proposal for a new borough law firm will be going out,” Giesbrecht said. “Our current firm, up to this point was Dillon and Findley and Paul Dillon is retiring so it is good timing to find a new one.”

The Borough is currently using the firm of Hedland, Brennan and Heideman in the interim and they will be putting in a proposal for the position.

“We are rolling out the transient room tax and sales tax ordinances borough wide beginning April 1,” Giesbrecht stated. “Today, the transient room tax funds are used to fund the visitor center and various grants.”

The property assessment process will begin in April and May and continue through the fall.

“We will start the actual looking at property in May when the weather is better,” Giesbrecht stated. “We will not be sending tax bills for 2013. Those out of service area one will not actually receive a tax bill until 2014.”

The Borough is beginning the process of changing the names with vendors.

“This has become a very dynamic process with existing grants and agreements,” Giesbrecht stated. “Some of these will need new agreements and some don't care, it is just another of the long processes involved in this transition.”

Petersburg Public Works Department has been evaluating roads for a variety of reasons. These reasons include the conditions of the roads, can a grader be used on the road and what equipment may be needed in case something is asked of the Borough.

“We are just going through the process of evaluating things right now,” Giesbrecht said. “It doesn't mean we are changing anything at this time it is more in case we are asked to do something by someone, we will have a better idea of what is needed in order to take care of that request.”

According to Giesbrecht, the ordinance review process has begun and will be a year long process.

“We are going through all of the ordinances and the language in some are being changed and some language is being taken out or additions are being made to make sure they are more borough appropriate,” Giesbrecht said. “There was a whole section of the sales tax ordinance that just didn't make any sense, so we changed it. This will take a very long time to get through and we may need a committee in order to get all of the processes right.”

Existing boards are also being reviewed to determine if the Assembly will want to continue these committees and boards or maybe just reduce the number on the boards and committees.

“There are many of these things that will need to be put on a ballot for the voters,” Giesbrecht said. “Reducing the number of people on the planning and zoning commission is one of them along with the APOC filing regulations.”

Over the course of the next several months officials will be identifying things that may need to be taken to the voters for approval.

“We may only have one issue to put on a ballot,” Giesbrecht stated. “But we are looking through everything very carefully to be sure.”

The Petersburg Borough is not scheduled for a regular election in October of this year, but they may hold a local election in order to vote on these particular issues that come up under review.

The next regular election of the Borough is scheduled for October 2014.


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